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September 8th, 2007
My hope is to post bible study material here every two days at most. My goal is to help edify believers everywhere in what God's Word says to us. He wishes us to be able stewards of His Word, students who can show that they are approved, and to learn how to love each other in order to show to the faithless that we are indeed His children. I invite your scrutiny, your comments, and your questions. May God's peace, joy, and love abound in each of your lives.
Let's begin with a quick study of the man under the tree who met the man on the tree. Who is this man you ask, who is he that is sitting under the tree? Why it is none other than the prophet Elijah whom we all view as a pillar, one who stands fearlessly and courageously for the Lord at all times. However beloved, Elijah's public image may be a touch marred when we stop to study his private and personal life. Someone has said in the past that "a man is no hero to his servant," which simply means that when anyone knows us too well, it is obvious to them that we are not heroes.
There is a time in Elijah's life when he does not look too good. He seems to exhibit what we probably would call a yellow streak. He makes a cowardly retreat, and there really seems to be failure in his personal life. He is not the man we are accustomed to thinking of his biblical character. Here, in I Kings 19:4-
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
Here is a man who has reached a place in his life where he has no hope, he feels unworthy, and simply wishes to die and end it all. I think many of us reach such a place in each of our lives. But if we learn the history leading up to this passage we would know that this man is in a very embarrassing situation! He is fleeing from a woman! He has been running away from Jezebel, a very resourceful and dominant woman. She actually was the king, and Ahab was the queen in that marriage.
As we see Elijah across the pages of scripture he was no wilting wallflower; he was not a wimp. He did not voice popular opinions nor did he appeal to the public. I tell you plainly, Elijah was a rugged man. He could be called an extrovert. He stood up against the false prophets of that day; and he stood with the Lord. He preferred to please God rather than being popular. He sought out divine approval rather than public applause. He was not a clown in a street parade or circus, but he certainly was willing to be a fool for God's sake.
As I stated earlier, Elijah boldly strides out onto the pages of scripture, into the palace of Ahab and announces that there is not going to be any rain except according to his word. Read with me in I Kings 17:1-
And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.
I do not know about you beloved, but those are very bold words to utter to any king! He might have also added, "I'm leaving town, and I'm not giving anyone a forwarding address. You won't be able to contact me, and I'm liable to not utter a word for a year or maybe two. " He stormed out of the palace, and the nation did not see any rain for more than three years.
This is how Elijah's life was. This is the type of man he was. Rainstorms, chariots of fire, and never a dull moment in his entire life. He was a man of action. He accomplished spectacular things, it must at times have been like a circus around him. And yet, we can detect some ego in him. He said to God, "I, even I alone am left." The Lord had seven thousand there who had not bowed their knee to worship Baal, but Elijah thought that he was all alone. Still, we also can detect some humbleness when he says, "I am no better than my fathers." He understands that he too is just a sinner in the eyes of holy God. Some people have asked "What would the church do with Elijah today?" That is not the right question however. That question ought to be, "What would Elijah do with the church today, beloved, if he were present?"
Read I Kings 17-19 to gain a fuller understanding of this man and his life. We will continue next time and explore how he is similar to Moses. Until then, Peace, Grace, and the Love of Christ Jesus be with each of you.
September 9th, 2007
Now we pick up Elijah's story once again. Elijah was a rugged man, a sensitive man, a courageous man, a man with a backbone. God sent Elijah off to college--His school to which He always sends his men--the desert! If you stop to consider it, every man in scripture whom God has chosen and trained has been put out on a desert; beginning with Abraham who was taken from the culture and refinement of the city of Ur in Chaldea, and sent to the land of Canaan, which was nothing to boast about. Then God sent Moses out on the back side of the desert away from Pharsoh's extravagant palace, and He trained him there. John the Baptist was taken by God, put out into the desert wilderness to prepare him for the tasks soon to be placed upon him as the forerunner of Christ our Lord. Even our Lord was tested out in the wilderness desert for forty days. Clearly that is God's method.
So, God sent Elijah during that time when there was to be no rain out by the brook Cherith. God provided him with food and drink there, using ravens to feed him. Importantly, Elijah had to depend upon God for his provisions. Water came from the brook, food came from the ravens. It's a time of extreme drought, nothing is growing. It was a time of growing close to God, a time to meditate upon God's promises. A time to also become pragmatic in noting how much lower the water level in the brook was each morning upon waking up. Depending upon God. Trusting in God. Are we that dependent and trusting in God each day of our lives? Perhaps we ought to be.
One thing Elijah learned at Cherith: his life was no better than that dry brook. The brook eventually dried up and God took him away from there, but Elijah had completed a semester in God's School of the Desert. You and I need to learn this lessen, at least if we are going to be used of God, that there is no water of life in us. We can only be channels through which the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit can flow. We are that dry brook. Elijah learned this lesson and so do we, beloved.
From Cherith God sent Elijah on to the widow of Zarephath and Elijah asked her for something to eat. She and her son were quite poor and their food had just about run out. They were down to the very last of their meal and oil. And what did she say? In verse 12 of chapter 17 she tells Elijah that she goes to prepare their last meal and then they shall eat it and die! My friends, that sounds alot like what Elijah himself felt later on! The prophet of God helps these poor people out at this time since he is doing the will of God. God had told him that the barrel of meal and the cruse of oil would not empty until the rain began to fall again. That, my freinds, was almost two years! The power of God is amazing to witness! How must those two individuals have felt each and every time that they went to the barrel and found meal, and to the cruse and found oil? My friends, we are not the bakery of the bread of life; in and of ourselves we do not, cannot, give the bread of life to anyone. It is only given as it is passed through the hands of Jesus Christ.
Then some time later the widow's son died from illness. She came and accused Elijah of mocking her with her past sins. The man of God asked for the body of her beloved son, carried him up into the loft where Elijah lived and placed him upon his own bed. Elijah could not help but look down at that dead body and know that that was what he was, a body of death. Elijah knew death was his appointment if he followed the normal procedures of life. No life-giving power existed within Elijah, that was supplied by God through the faith and the personal touch of Elijah.
After this Elijah was eventually led by God back to Obadiah and then king Ahab. The outcome of this reunion is his confrontation of idolatry and false prophets. In I Kings 18:21-24 we are told:
And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the LORD be God, follow him: but Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it one wood, and put no fire under; and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under; and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God tha answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken.
Elijah threw down the proverbial glove in challenge! The prophets of Baal dare not refuse his challenge, they had to accept or else lose respect in the eyes of all of the people. Imagine what it must have looked and sounded like! It had to have been a carnival atmosphere all the day long. And it was all day long, my friends. They began preparing and then chanting to Baal at dawn and continued until evening without any results. That is when Elijah began to mock them just a little bit. The following verses relate how Elijah began to prepare the altar and the bullock for sacrifice to God and then had men come and dump water all over the wood and the altar and the ground not once, but three times! He stepped back, prayed to Jehovah in heaven, and everyone witnessed holy fire rain down from heaven and consume the altar, the wood, and the bullock. Elijah surely enjoyed bringing down fire from on high that day, for he then commanded the people to round up all of the prophets of Baal, bring them to the local river, and there Elijah slaughtered all of them. The prophet of God is on a spiritual high, my friends. Just as are we all when we do those things that God ordains us to carry out. But with every mountain top experience of ours there inevitably is a valley on our horizon.
Next time I will write more about how Elijah ended up under a juniper tree resignedly seeking death from God. Until then, may you walk in the Lord, and claim His promises as your own.
September 11th, 2007
Beloved, Elijah prayed to Almighty God in heaven to bring fire down and light that altar and the sacrificial bullock. He cast himself completely upon the Lord for he knew that he could not possibly ignite any flames upon that water drenched altar. Then Jehovah moved in a mighty and marvelous way, and fire rained down from the sky! It was dramatic, it was sensational, and you can bet Elijah enjoyed every bit of it!
But now it is done. This prophet has slain all of Baal's prophets and has announced that rain is finally going to come. His utter weariness overtakes him, we can see it in the fact of him sitting down to wait for it. Adrenaline has been pumping through his veins for the entire time that he began God's confrontation with Baal's servants and while people rounded up all 450 prophets of Baal. Now is a time for a valley of fatigue. You and I have been in like circumstances my friends. We go from elation with our hearts pumping a mile a minute to the exhaustion of total release from that high.
Not all is filled with glory for Elijah for Ahab went and told Jezebel all that Elijah had done. She was not pleased that all of her prophets were slain. Friends, she shot off a "Western Union" message to Elijah! A personal messenger carried these words to Elijah saying,
So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time(I Kings 19:2).
Jezebel was a very dangerous woman. If Naboth were still here he would verify that you did not mess with her nor was it smart to cross her since it would mean a horrible death. She was telling Elijah that she would do to him what he had done to her prophets, slay him with the sword. We would conclude that Elijah would not be concerned, that he would stand up to this woman, but he did not stand up to her. It is quite safe to say that he took his eyes off of God. When you come out of the very presence of God you can go out and accomplish mighty things. But when you take your eyes off of God and begin to focus on yourself or upon things then doubts can, and do creep into our minds.
Now this man of God most assuredly is weary, very weary. He has been confronting the prophets of Baal and his backslidden nation and his tank is now on empty. There is no auxillary tank for him to switch to. He had not counted on Jezebel seeking his life in consequence to his actions so he did what anyone who is fatigued and emotionally strung out would do. He may very well have been approaching what we today would call a nervous breakdown .
And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there(I Kings 19:3).
Locating this town on a map we see that Elijah ran almost completely out of the country! Just to drop off his servant no less! For he was not done running away from Jezebel whom he knew would not stop hunting him down.
But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree; and he requested or himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers(I Kings 19:4).
Someone must have mentioned to Elijah that he was better than his fathers, do not know who but it is quite evident here. All we do know is that he is saying the opposite now. He is tired, he has had enough and just wants rest from all of these hassles that are hounding him. Have you been there, beloved? Simply worn out from life's labors, trials, and tribulations that seem to find you no matter where you go to hide from them? Well, you are not alone since Elijah was experiencing the exact same feelings here. He wished to die. And tomorrow I will show you how God dealt with this man and his afflictions. Until then, may God smile upon you and may you walk closer with Him today than you did yesterday.
September 13th, 2007
My friends, God is an excellent psychiatrist. He knows exactly how to deal with us each and every day of our lives. Notice now what He did for poor Elijah:
And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat(I Kings 19:5).
God sent one of His holy angels down from heaven to minister unto His servant who was in severe need. I tell you beloved, He does the same for you and I to this very day. God gave this man sleep for that is what he needed most. When we get discouraged most often it is not due to spiritual wrongness but simply because we are physically worn out. I believe that today Satan uses this ploy very effectively in our culture. He gets us caught up in our hectic lifestyles and before we notice it we are exhausted and become despondent, despairing, distraught, and depressed. The four D's, so to speak. We are doing more than we ought to be doing.
More later today my friends. May God richly bless each of you.
September 14th, 2007
Beloved, in our current culture I believe that as we all are uner pressure, when most of us are doing more than we ought to do, that we do come to this place under the juniper tree. It is not because we lack spirituality; it is due to us being overwrought and overtired.
Perhaps you just want to point your finger, waggle it, it Elijah and say, " Boy you are a sissy, a coward--fleeing from that woman. You are the guy who stood down 450 prophets of Baal and slaughtered them. You're the one talking about standing before God, and look at you! What a wimp, a baby, lying here asking God to kill you."
But you see, God didn't criticize him. God put him to sleep. The Great Physician in essence said, "You need rest, Elijah." After getting some solid sleep God woke him and fed him. Rest and nutrition was what Elijah needed. God fed him highly nutritious food for we can see what happened to Elijah later on:
And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again(I Kings 19:6).
God put him back to sleep for the man needed more rest. God fed him to restore his strength:
And the angel of the LORD came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee(I Kings 19:7).
See, God is aware that Elijah's journey is too great for him to accomplish under his own power. Beloved, the journey is too great for all of us, we cannot reach its end doing it our way. We need the Lord Jesus Christ to come into our lives, our hearts, with the bread of life and the living water so that we will no longer hunger nor thirst.
Just as Elijah needed rest so do we, friends. So we need to know something concerning that redemption rest that God freely gives to those who will trust Christ. You cease from your own work, cease from your anxiety, and rest/remain in Him, knowing confidently that He has done everything for you already. Just as Naomi said to Ruth: "Now that you have let Boaz know that you want him as your kinsman-redeemer, you can just sit in that rocking chair and wait. The man will not be in rest until he has done everything for you."(Ruth 3:18) Isn't that what Christ has done for each of us? Isn't that what he is to each of us, a kinsman-redeemer? Oh beloved, He did not rest until our redemption was finished upon the Cross at Calvary! Christ finished His work and when He ascended back into heaven He sat down at God's right hand because He had finished redemption to give to you. Today He invites each of us to enter into His rest:
There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his(Hebrews 4:9-10).
My friends, that is the rest that a tired heart today really needs, and you can find it only in Christ. No psychiatrist, no doctor, no therapist, can offer it to you with a 100% guaratee of it working. One psychiatrist once was asked about the guilt complex. He replied, "You know, that is the one thing we cannot get rid of. We can shift it to something else and we can spread it around, but we cannot get rid of the guilt complex."
Only Christ can lift our burden of sin. He says to us, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavyladen, and I will give ye rest." Notice that He does not say "I might give you rest", or "I will give rest to only some." Christ will give rest to all who come to trust Him. Isn't that a mighty promise? Isn't that a comfort to our troubled hearts? He takes away our burden of sin and guilt complex. Elijah needed this release and God gave it to him. Now notice what takes place:
And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God(I Kings 19:8)
Now that was some meal! He was able to travel for forty days and nights without another meal! What was the purpose of him going to Horeb? Why, he needed more schooling, he needed to do some post-graduate work. God wished to give him his degree in the Backside of the Desert, as Dr. McGee used to say. It comes after a great deal of training.
And he [Elijah] came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?(I Kings 19:9).
Elijah had said he wanted to die, and he is still running away from Jezebel. He has not only left the juniper tree, he has gone way down to Horeb. Perhaps he is headed to Egypt or on into Africa to get away from Jezebel. Have you ever attempted to outrun your problems? We shall see what happens next with this man of God when we meet here next time. Until then, rest in God's care and rely upon His wisdm to see you through your daily problems in life.
September 15th, 2007
Now my friends, we need to listen closely to this prophet cry. Here he is in a cave, hiding from Jezebel when the Lord finds him and plainly wants Elijah to tell Him why he is in that cave.
And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away(I Kings 19:10).
Elijah is laying it right out there friends. He is telling God something that He already knows. We can wonder, of course, why Elijah had not caught wind of the 7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal or the 100 prophets who had been hidden in a cave. Perhaps he did not know of their existance because they all had gone underground. Whether they were cowards or God was providentially protecting them we do not know. All we do know is that they were not standing shoulder to shoulder with Elijah.
In our culture we might say that Elijah had developed "the Elijah complex," which is a very common danger to all believers today. If we do not expose ourselves to positive reinforcement from other believers we can begin to feel like saying, "God, I am the only one left in this region who is standing in the breach for you! Only I am out in the hedgerow plugging up the hole to prevent thieves from plundering my family and loved ones. Only I am on the ramparts looking for the enemy, only I am watching." But that is untrue. Many, many saints exist all over who are faithful to the Lord.
So God gives Elijah his doctoral degree. God speaks to him and demonstrates His presence:
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD..."(I Kings 19:11-12).
Now Elijah could appreciate this show of power. He was into these demonstrations of God's might. But we notice that God was not in the midst of all of this noise and tumult. Today we witness alot of noise and tumult going on but it does not always involve God. After the wind Elijah experienced an earthquake and a fire. Likewise, the Lord was not in either of those:
But the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire, a still small voice.
Elijah was a man of action and involved in spectacular demonstrations of God's might power. He was not prepared to hear God in this small still voice that came to him. It is a lesson all of us need to learn. Not every ministry has to be spectacular and flashy before God involves Himself in it. Looking at the various large movements just in America today, I am thoroughly convinced that God is not involved in all of them. Paul said:
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise..."(I Corinthians 1:26-27).
God takes people like D. L. Moody, without any training, and enables them to reach out and touch multitudes of hurting, lost souls. God also has taken a baseball player by the name of Billy Sunday and used him to great purpose. Why doesn't God go and use the seminary students? I think it may be because they know too much! They fall victim to the snare of pride in how much they do know. They can much more easily begin to think that they are something, when in reality they are nothing at all. Billy Graham was not a seminary graduate, did you know that? As great a ministry as his and no training formally from any school of theology! Why does God persist in doing this? Look no further than verses 27-29 of I Corinthians chapter one:
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence."
Elijah needed to learn this lesson. A man of action. A doer of great things. He was a man of tremendous ability, but he needed to learn that God does not use that. But God can and will use things that do not even exist.
You cannot say that because you have no ability nor talent that God is not using you. The only reason that He may not be using you is that you are not willing to become nothing in His sight. Are you willing to be a fool? Are you willing to be weak? God uses both of those things to confound the world. Elijah had to learn this and so do we my friends.